News for 2006

Chiltern Gentian (Gentianella germanica) Found in S Hants

Genti ger 01 (175K)

©Martin Rand 2006

In August 2006 Marion and David Nesbitt, voluntary wardens at Martin Down National Nature Reserve, discovered a fine patch of the Chiltern Gentian (Gentianella germanica) growing in grassland beside one of the minor tracks over the down. Well-known (but rare) in the north of the county, this is the first record from the south - although, since Martin was once part of Wiltshire, this area still belongs to 'biological' vice-county 8 (South Wilts). (For an explanation of these complexities, see the BSBI in Hampshire page. )

This illustrates once again that even in the best-botanised of places there are always discoveries to be made. Chiltern Gentian joins a list of 'puzzle plants' at Martin Down which are at the extreme of their range, and occur in very small quantities. They include Pasque Flower (Anemone pulsatilla) and Mountain Everlasting (Antennaria dioica). When did they get here? And were they helped? Perhaps we should accept that if you maintain really large tracts of countryside in a state favourable for wildlife, you are likely to get things persisting or even arriving naturally when their natural range in the countryside around has vanished.

Arable Margins - Reaping the Benefits?

It has been encouraging this year to see "conservation strips" around arable fields that have been tilled and not sown up with Rye-grass. The benefits for some of our declining arable plants have been spectacularly obvious. At Farley Mount, Corn Gromwell (Lithospermum arvense) produced more than 700 flowering plants, compared with 100 to 200 in recent years. Lesser Quaking-grass (Briza minor) made a spectacular showing at Sowley, with an estimated 20,000 flowering spikes. On a headland at Easton, near Winchester, a dozen plants of the rare Fumitory Fumaria parviflora were seen a couple of years ago: this year there are over 100 fine plants growing with Fumaria densiflora, Fumaria officinalis subsp. wirtgenii and other interesting cornfield weeds. Let's hope that the trend continues and is properly supported by DEFRA!

Briza min 01 (162K)

©Martin Rand 2006

A New Hampshire Site for Marsh Sow-thistle

Sonch pal 01 (1211K)

©Martin Rand 2006

The Hampshire Flora Group meeting at Calshot on 12th July 2006 was memorable in several ways, but chiefly for the discovery of a new Hampshire site for the nationally scarce Marsh Sow-thistle (Sonchus palustris). This spectacular plant was only discovered in Hampshire in 1959, but gives every appearance of being native in a few spots along the Beaulieu River estuary.

The new site is on the shoreline between Fawley Power Station and Ashlett, where it can be easily seen from the footpath. Is it a recent arrival here? It seems well-established, with over 80 flowering stems in the main patch and a smaller patch of 4 flowering stems nearby, along with evidence of previous years' flowering. It is hard to believe that such a huge and distinctive plant has remained unnoticed by botanists for many years, and perhaps it is spreading in our area, as it seems to have done in East Anglia.

A Mixed Year For Early Gentian

It was probably the long cold spell in winter as much as the miserable slow start to spring that resulted in a poor performance for Early Gentian ((Gentianella anglica) this year. At Noar Hill in early June there were none showing. In late May at Ashley Hole in the New Forest there were about 200 plants, but they were minute and only four showed a single flower at that stage.

News was better at Portsdown Hill. Richard Jones, the countryside ranger for Portsmouth City Council, picked up four plants during scrub clearance on the southern slope of Portsdown, west of Paulsgrove Pit. Not many, but this is the first record here since 1975 and in a new site. On the other side of the hill, 65 plants were counted at Portsdown Technology Park on June 14th - only about half the number seen in 2005, but still flourishing despite lengthening grassland.

Genti ang 01 (252K)

©Martin Rand 2006

Sedge ID Training Day, 11th June

This year's event took place in the Wilverley area of the New Forest to look at sedges of heath and bog. The weather was kind and the dry season allowed us to venture safely into the deep bog where some of the specialities lurk. As well as a good range of characteristic species, we were also able to see some of the special plants of the area including Soft-leaved Sedge (Carex montana), Bog Sedge (Carex limosa) and Slender Sedge (Carex lasiocarpa).

There were also some good distractions to enjoy during the day, including a fine stand of flowering Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia), the magenta Early Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. pulchella), a couple of nice plants of Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis), lots of Great Sundew (Drosera anglica) and abundantly flowering Lesser Bladderwort (Utricularia minor).

Popular opinion seems to be in favour of another day next year, so this will probably take place in one of the chalk valley sites in the centre or north of the county. Watch out for details in the winter 2006/7 Flora News. The keys and documentation used on the training days are now available online on the Articles and Papers page.

BSBI 'Plant Crib' Goes Online

Euphr ang 01 (278K)

©Martin Rand 2006

If you've met the BSBI 'Plant Crib', you'll know what a valuable tool it is. Designed to aid accurate identification for BSBI's national recording schemes, it's a mine of information for many of the more difficult groups of plants, written by national and international experts in those groups.

Its one big drawback has always been its bulky, A4 paperback format, making it hard to use in the field where it is often most needed. Now the BSBI has made large sections of it available online, where you can download it or view it. And it's free for personal use! Get it here.